Despite the tight nature of the featherweight title rematch between A.J. McKee and Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, Bellator President Scott Coker doesn’t believe a trilogy fight is “guaranteed.”
At Bellator 277 last Friday, two 145-pound titans collided for the second time in a year. Last July, McKee secured a seat at the global featherweight table when he became the first man to defeat “Pitbull” since 2016. After five defenses, the Brazilian’s reign came to a close thanks to a guillotine choke at Bellator 263.
Off the back of his championship and Grand Prix glory, and having extended his perfect record to 18-0, McKee called out the top featherweights in the UFC and claimed to be the world’s best at 145 pounds.
While he had a chance to further support that sentiment by adding another blemish to Freire’s impressive résumé, McKee fell short in their rematch, losing a tight decision on the judges’ scorecards. In doing so, the 27-year-old had the 0 on his record removed.
Following the event, promotional kingpin Coker gave his take on what’s since been a highly-debated contest and result. Like many, the South Korean-born American labeled the Bellator 277 main event as “very close.”
“Listen, the judges saw it the way they saw it and he’s the new champ,” Coker said. “As far as I’m concerned, he deserves it. I think it was a very close fight. It was a technical fight. And it’s not my job to judge – it’s for the judges and the state athletic commission to work that out, and that’s what happened. That’s what you saw. You saw the judges call the fight the way they did. I did think it was very close. I was sitting around some of my friends and said, ‘What did you think?’ Half of them said A.J., half of them said ‘Pitbull.’ It was very close.” (h/t MMA Junkie)
Coker Unsure What’s Next For McKee & Freire
With their rivalry sitting level at one win apiece, it would seem a trilogy bout is the logical next step, especially given how close the rematch was. However, with McKee expressing a desire to transition to lightweight, it doesn’t appear to be that simple.
Coker shared that sentiment post-fight, claiming that while he’d love to a book a third date between the Brazilian and the American, it’s far from guaranteed.
With that in mind, the 59-year-old named 17-1 featherweight Ádám Borics, who’s riding a four-fight win streak in the Bellator cage, as a potential challenger for the first defense of Freire’s third reign on the 145-pound throne.
“I’m going to go back and watch this fight and talk to my team,” Coker said. “But as much as we’d love to see a rematch, let’s see how that goes. I can’t really answer that question. If all parties want to do that, we might do it. But it’s not guaranteed. Adam Borics looked great against Mads Burnell (at Bellator 276 in March) — he had a great performance. He had an amazing fight, and we’ll see.”
Would you like to see A.J. McKee and Patricio Freire share the cage for a third time?